Smart people or smart contexts? Cognition, ability, and talent development in an age of situated approaches to knowing and learning

Sasha A. Barab, Jonathan A. Plucker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

207 Scopus citations

Abstract

Intelligence, expertise, ability and talent, as these terms have traditionally been used in education and psychology, are socially agreed upon labels that minimize the dynamic, evolving, and contextual nature of individual-environment relations. These hypothesized constructs can instead be described as functional relations distributed across whole persons and particular contexts through which individuals appear knowledgeably skillful. The purpose of this article is to support a concept of ability and talent development that is theoretically grounded in 5 distinct, yet interrelated, notions: ecological psychology, situated cognition, distributed cognition, activity theory, and legitimate peripheral participation. Although talent may be reserved by some to describe individuals possessing exceptional ability and ability may be described as an internal trait, in our description neither ability nor talent are possessed. Instead, they are treated as equivalent terms that can be used to describe functional transactions that are situated across person-in-situation. Further, and more important, by arguing that ability is part of the individual-environment transaction, we take the potential to appear talented out of the hands (or heads) of the few and instead treat it as an opportunity that is available to all although it may be actualized more frequently by some.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-182
Number of pages18
JournalEducational Psychologist
Volume37
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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